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The island

21 minutes

Primitive technology: round hut

11 minutes

Baby brother

14 minutes

Inferno observatory

5 minutes

A cure for fear: nighttime in Kabul

14 minutes

The island where 50 million crabs roam free and refugees are trapped in limbo

Located in the Indian Ocean, northeast of Australia and south of Indonesia, the Australian territory of Christmas Island is the arrival point for thousands of asylum seekers held in indefinite detention. Most of the island, however, is a protected national park, famous for its 50 million red crabs and their migration from the jungle to the sea. The Island follows Poh Lin Lee, a trauma counsellor who uses ‘sand tray therapy’ or ‘sand play’ to explore detainees’ personal and diverse stories of hardship, and helps them cope with the difficulties of life in detention. Despite her best efforts, Lee sees her patients – largely powerless, frequently mistreated and with little hope of freedom in sight – faring worse over time due to the anguish of living in limbo. Juxtaposing the spectacle of innumerable migrating crabs with the plight of the trapped detainees, this poignant short documentary probes the breadth, chaos and frequent cruelty of today’s migrant and refugee crises with an urgent humanity.

Director: Gabrielle Brady

Producer: Alex Kelly

Website: Guardian Documentaries

Learn to build your own rainproof hut – or, at least, marvel at the man who knows how

The popular Primitive Technology YouTube channel features an anonymous man in Far North Queensland in Australia fashioning tools and structures using only naturally occurring, found materials. In this installment, following the deterioration of his A-frame hut, he builds what he hopes will be a more durable round hut from the ground up. Starting with wood posts tied together with cane, the man makes the structure water-resistant by adding a palm roof, a drainage trench, and walls built from a combination of mud and cane. In the process, he also almost manages to make his remarkable ingenuity look easy. To learn more about the step-by-step process while watching, turn on closed captions in the video player. 

‘I thought I was gonna be a teenager forever’: moving back in with the parents at 23

In his short documentary Baby Brother, the US filmmaker Kamau Bilal offers a bit of vérité filmmaking at its most refreshing, transforming the mundanity of his younger brother’s return to their parents’ Missouri home into a funny and poignant exploration of the weirdness of young adulthood. Ismaeel is 23 and affable, if somewhat hapless, but the intimacy of his brother’s filmmaking – and presumably his affection for Ismaeel – makes the treatment of the young man’s charms, flaws and idiosyncrasies gently revelatory. His stifled ambitions and uneasiness about the trappings and responsibilities of adulthood echo a distinctly millennial malaise, at the same time as being deeply rooted in his personal experience. This heartfelt and charming short was a favourite on the 2018 film festival circuit, screening at the Sundance Film Festival, True/False and Sheffield Doc/Fest, among many others. 

Director: Kamau Bilal

Scientists haven’t tamed volcanoes but it’s wild and fun to watch them try

During a fellowship at the Mineral Sciences Laboratory at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, the UK filmmakers Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt stumbled upon a collection of 16mm films shot by volcanologists in the field. Originally presented as an installation at the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT) in Liverpool in 2011, this three-channel video combines the found footage with a churning, propulsive soundtrack to explore the human fascination with Earth-rupturing natural phenomena. Across the three channels, erupting volcanoes are at once powerful forces of nature as well as fodder for quantifiable scientific data – and high jinks.

Directors: Ruth Jarman, Joe Gerhardt

Website: Semiconductor Films

A veteran returns to war through virtual reality, hoping to be rid of his PTSD

Almost 40 years after post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was officially recognised as a distinct mental condition, treating its frequently debilitating symptoms has proven extremely challenging to sufferers and clinicians. The human brain is hard-wired to defend against threats, making little distinction between real and perceived danger. However, Merel Kindt, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Amsterdam, believes that she has discovered a breakthrough treatment for overactive fear responses. By first exposing patients to their greatest fears and then administering a beta-blocker called propranolol, Kindt says that fear memories can be overwritten and made benign. 

This is the second instalment of the US director Lana Wilson’s four-part documentary series A Cure for Fear, which follows patients undergoing this potentially revolutionary treatment. It features Kindt attempting to alleviate the PTSD symptoms of a Canadian veteran of the war in Afghanistan: to trigger the fear memory, he must relive his most traumatic battle experience in harrowing detail via an immersive VR recreation. Watch the first instalment of the series here.

Director: Lana Wilson

Producer: Shrihari Sathe

Website: Topic

The island where 50 million crabs roam free and refugees are trapped in limbo

Located in the Indian Ocean, northeast of Australia and south of Indonesia, the Australian territory of Christmas Island is the arrival point for thousands of asylum seekers held in indefinite detention. Most of the island, however, is a protected national park, famous for its 50 million red crabs and their migration from the jungle to the sea. The Island follows Poh Lin Lee, a trauma counsellor who uses ‘sand tray therapy’ or ‘sand play’ to explore detainees’ personal and diverse stories of hardship, and helps them cope with the difficulties of life in detention. Despite her best efforts, Lee sees her patients – largely powerless, frequently mistreated and with little hope of freedom in sight – faring worse over time due to the anguish of living in limbo. Juxtaposing the spectacle of innumerable migrating crabs with the plight of the trapped detainees, this poignant short documentary probes the breadth, chaos and frequent cruelty of today’s migrant and refugee crises with an urgent humanity.

Director: Gabrielle Brady

Producer: Alex Kelly

Website: Guardian Documentaries

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